Circumstances of Fate
It was cold outside and he fought the chill as he wrapped his coat tightly around him and crept stealthily along the side of the building, trying his damnedest not to make a sound.
Nikolas stood outside the church doors. The doors were opened just a bit and he could see inside and feel the church's warmth.
As his brother's best man, he should go inside and participate in the wedding rehearsal, but his legs wouldn't budge. Guilt and shame washed over him in waves and he didn't feel right about entering the chapel with the treacherous feelings, which consumed his heart.
He was in love with Lucky's betrothed. Skin the color of sweet caramel, long micro braids that framed a heart-shaped face and the voice of an angel to complete the pictures.
Those were the attributes of Dawn Jensen. The woman who set his heart and soul on fire was the woman he couldn't have.
The relationship between her and his brother had been whirlwind. She breezed into town, met Lucky at a service station of all places and then, that was it. The two were inseparable.
What were the thoughts of Fate that didn't give him the opportunity to require petrol at that specific moment in time, Nikolas wondered?
Why couldn't it have been him she met instead of Lucky? Why couldn't he be the man she'd share her bed and the rest of her life with?
Her laughter drifted through the parted doors and outside to him. His breath caught and held. The sound of it was music to his ears.
He remembered the first time he brought that sound from her. It was one of those rare occasions where Lucky tore himself from her side and Nikolas had her all to himself.
They were riding the launch to Wyndemere. She'd express interest in seeing Sheba and he planned to introduce them.
In an attempt to sound more American like his brother, he'd inadvertently said that horseback riding was freezing when he meant to say that it was cool.
Oh, how she laughed at that. Well, she tried not to at first, but the dancing light in her eyes gave her away. Nikolas felt the heat flood his cheeks and nodded. Go ahead he'd said to her and soon, the laughter bubbled out of her.
Until that moment, he had simply thought her beautiful, but it was then that he realized she was a goddess.
God, how he wanted her.
The ache overtook him like a fever...uncontrollable and burning.
He dreaded those moments when they were alone and longed for the next time.
His dreams of her were something private and he held them dearly. Until they made one fateful mistake.
Her arms closed around him just as his encircled her. The first touch was scorching. Immediately, his eyes flew to her and he knew she felt it, too.
Hope was born in his heart that night, but he wasn't quite sure what he hoped for. To make her his woman once and for all, or to break his brother's heart.
After that, Dawn never made the mistake of being so close to him again. She shied away from him as nervous as an anxious filly and Nikolas didn't press the issue. He knew that small spark was a wretched mistake.
But that didn't stop the dreams or the fantasies, but it did bring a stop to his spending time with them. Until Lucky's announcement: a proposal to which she accepted.
Curses welled in Nikolas' throat, but he didn't utter one. Instead, he hugged his brother, congratulated them and gave her a chaste kiss on the cheek.
Now, months later, the day of reckoning had arrived. Surely, he was damned for still wanting her. 'Tis pity, he didn't care.
Taking a deep breath, Nikolas summoned the last bit of courage and decency he possessed and went inside.
This should be *his* night to cherish with her.
That one thought continued to echo to him, over and over.
Eyes scanning the room, he tried to calm his nerves. He felt as if every pair of eyes that fell upon him could read his mind, know his thoughts. Know of the secret pain that tore at him.
His eyes found her once again.
And just as always, she left him breathless.
But there was a new sensation that pricked at his heart now. A new feeling, once foreign to him, now seemed to consume him.
Lucky wasn't blind. He had noticed the subtle changes in her behavior, but chalked them up to pre-wedding jitters.
But the 'jitters' Dawn had been experiencing lately weren't those of a young, blushing bride-to-be he slowly realized. True, she had been pre-occupied with her hectic caseload at GH. And the untimely death of his father, and the subsequent preparations for his funeral couldn't have helped matters any.
Still, if there was one thing he knew to be true of his bond with the enchanting beauty it was this: no matter what the situation, no matter how out of control the world around them would get, they always made time for each other. If only to take a few moments to simply hold each other and whisper "I love you."
Sadly, he noted, those moments were few and far between as of late.
He had wracked his brain for the past week trying to determine the cause of her inner turmoil. For as valiant an effort his beloved made to disguise her conflict, she was not able to fool Lucky.
The mere thought that she actually could filled his heart with laughter. And sorrow.
Again, the doubt gnawed at him.
Not about his feelings for her. Those were unwavering. If he knew nothing else to be real or true in the world, Lucky *knew* that he loved Dawn more than life itself.
Secure in that truth, he pushed aside the feelings of uncertainty and made his way to Dawn. Once the wedding was behind them, everything would be back to normal he told himself. It would be just as before. And when they returned from their honeymoon, maybe she would even be willing to help him with his plans to play Cupid for his big brother, Nikolas.
It already seemed as if they would have little if any work to do, Lucky reasoned, as he watched Nikolas chatting up Keesha. Although they had never been on an 'official' date, Lucky had noted there was definitely chemistry between the two the few times they'd accompanied him and Dawn out together.
A warm smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, Lucky bit back a chuckle as he watched Dawn make her way to Keesha. His beloved was a die-hard romantic, and a firm believer that when love didn't blossom on its own, a little "help" didn't hurt. Ever the discreet matchmaker, Lucky knew Dawn would wait until Nikolas left Keesha's side to begin to work her magic.
But there would be no magic worked, no spell cast that night.
For moments later, as he watched his big brother hastily exit Keesha and Dawn's presence, Lucky finally was able to identify the source of his wife-to-be's sudden change in behavior.
And in that moment, Lucky's world as he knew it forever changed.
It was officially mere hours before her wedding day. The day that she, Dawn Jensen, would become Mrs. Lucas Lorenzo Spencer.
Those closest to her were all within arms' reach as they rehearsed the ceremony that would mark the most momentous occasion of her life. Tomorrow she would stand before God and all assembled and pledge herself to one man - for all eternity. And beyond.
Mentally Dawn recited her vows. For richer, for poorer . . . In sickness and in health . . . Forsaking all others . . . During the rehearsal she had stumbled a bit on that last one.
Forsaking all others. That was the problem, wasn't it?
A rush of cold air swept through the church, startling Dawn from her musings. She, like all the others assembled, turned toward the door. So . . . Nikolas had come. She had almost begun to hope that he wouldn't show up, though that would have been ridiculous. He was both Lucky's big brother and best man. His absence would have been like a big red flag calling attention to the thing she wanted to hide.
'The thing' she wanted to hide. What a polite euphemism for the attraction she felt for her betrothed's older brother. An attraction that she hoped Lucky had not sensed.
Dawn could feel Nikolas' eyes fixed upon her. His stare, dark and intense, sent shivers through her, and she tried to focus her attention elsewhere. It was impossible. He was darkness to Lucky's light. Where her betrothed was open and outgoing, his brother was reserved and shy. They were two sides to the same coin. Two good men, so different yet so alike.
Tomorrow she would bind herself to only one.
Curiously she watched as Keesha Ward approached Nikolas where he stood. As he interacted with the beautiful young woman, Dawn realized that there was something magical waiting to happen between the two of them. If only Nikolas would allow it to grow, he would have a chance for the kind of miracle she had found in Lucky.
Her thoughts brought her up short. At that moment Dawn had a sudden epiphany. Her attraction for Nikolas, while genuine, was merely that - attraction. She had been so afraid to examine just what it was she felt for him. It had taken a moment of unguarded thought for her heart to confirm the truth that she knew all along. She loved Lucky. Dawn wanted to throw her arms out and spin with joy.
Buoyantly, she walked over to Nikolas and Keesha, determined to help them find the happiness she had with Lucky. Dawn had barely spoken before he excused himself and fled. She felt a fleeting sadness that her happiness would cause him such pain. Turning, she sought her beloved.
Lucky stood nearby, a dawning realization upon his face. Betrayal and hurt marred his handsome features. Moving quickly to his side, Dawn grasped Lucky's face in her warm hands. In the short time they had known each other, he and Dawn had learned to read the other's soul.
In desperation, Lucky's eyes studied her face. As he gazed upon her, a determination and peace that he had not seen lately flooded Dawn's countenance.
Her whispered vow soothed his soul. "For richer, for poorer . . . In sickness and in health . . . Forsaking all others for as long as we both shall live. . . "